28 February 2006

Your tear ducts

Crying is something that even the most mighty of men have done. But contrary to popular belief, tears don't come from the tear ducts.

If you think that boys don’t cry, then you’re sadly mistaken. After all, we’ve got the equipment to weep like a mid-afternoon thunderstorm.

Interestingly though, tear-ducts are not designed to produce tears, but rather to drain them. Excess tears during crying are redirected into your nasal passages via these ducts, so those snot balls you’re blasting into the tissue after a fight with the missus are in fact tears coming out of your nose.

Tears are salty excretions that lubricate the eyes, and also contain an antiseptic known as lysozyme that help defend your eyes against any unwanted bacterial invaders.

Drizzing is also not that bad for you, helping to clear out bits of grit and dust from the eyes, and lubricating the conjunctiva, an important membrane protecting your gazers.

Interestingly, not all your tears come from the same place. The tears keeping your eyes moist are produced in the eyelid, and on the conjunctiva. The ones you shed over a chick flick, a love gone sour, or a visit to the cash machine are produced in a gland known as the lacrimal gland found in the outer corner of your upper eyelid. These are reflex tears, and will also flow when something gets in your eye, or your team loses yet another game.

Most people go about their daily business completely oblivious to what’s happening on either side of their nose. But when the wells run dry, it can become an extremely uncomfortable and even painful situation. When you get dry-eye, your blinkers will get itchy and even burn.

A perfect bikini body on a sunny beach is not the only thing that can lead to dry-eye. If you work in a building, the air-conditioning may be the culprit for dry air, and in winter excessive use of heaters can also turn the indoor environment into a parched desert atmosphere. Strong winds, reactions to certain medications, or allergic reactions to contact lenses may also lead to you desperately reaching for the eye-drops.

Did you know?

  • Dacryostenosis is a medical condition that leads to the tear-duct becoming completely blocked. It is a common condition, and does not effect vision.
  • When someone is crying ‘crocodile tears’, that person is crying insincerely.
  • (Warren Vonk, Health24, February 2006)



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